On June 5, another EU Sustainable Energy Week will start in Brussels, aiming at the development of common mechanisms and best practices for CO2 reduction achievements and the building of the green energy mix.

A number of related instruments have been adopted recently in the European Union, including an updated carbon emissions trading scheme. However, in order to obtain tangible results in reducing harmful emissions into the atmosphere, European countries must still respond to serious challenges.

In accordance with Eurostat calculations, the volume of CO2 emissions in the EU-28 increased by 1.8% in 2017 compared to 2016. The ETS operators’ “contribution” (accounting for up to 45% of carbon dioxide emissions in EU) for 2017 also increased by 0.3% compared to 2016.

Up to 25% of the new European long-term budget will be earmarked for Climate Action, which means that the issue of expenditure efficiency becomes critical. A key source of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU is the burning of fuels, which are associated with industry and transportation. These sectors account for over 70% of carbon dioxide emissions.

The importance of the related European economy’s sector can hardly be overestimated as the automobile industry alone employs more than 12 million Europeans. Manufacturing and various stages of the supply chain provide jobs for another 7 million Europeans.

The largest European industrial organisation, Fuels Europe, incorporates 41 oil companies represented on the European market and identifies two key areas of development of the oil refining industry that may ensure the rapid achievement of the EU’s climate goals.

The first is a gradual increase in the environmental efficiency of the feedstocks and a reduction of product-related greenhouse gas emissions. The second is the technological upgrade of the facilities aimed at a maximum reduction of their harmful environmental impact.

The implementation of these activities will lead to the introduction of new products and technological solutions, as well as innovations in the field of business processes and business models, some of them already actively used by the market.

Austrian company OMV completed the first project to produce environmentally friendly hydrogen fuel in 2017. Norway’s Statoil reduced its upstream projects’ carbon intensity per barrel of oil equivalent (BOE) to 9 kg in 2017, coming significantly closer to the target value of 8 kg per BOE by 2030. Completed in 2015, the modernisation of the processing capacities of Russia’s LUKOIL in Romania led to a 90-fold reduction in CO2 emissions.

To achieve maximum top-down efficiency of the refining sector’s initiatives that are already under implementation, they need to be included in sectoral strategies at the EU level. This will ensure the long-term security of investments in new “green” projects while maintaining their profitability amid aggressive foreign competition.

In this sense, the upcoming EU Sustainable Energy Week should become the next step in the harmonisation of sectoral approaches to the achievement of the future’s green energy balance. But the real stress test for the European energy sector will come with the development of a unified strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, that will take into account national plans for the development of energy grids, and is planned to be published in the first quarter of 2019.